Legislation being considered by the U.S. Senate that would reauthorize funding and programs for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is critical to improve the air travel process and would support hundreds of thousands of jobs while adding billions of dollars to the economy, according to the head of the U.S. Travel Association.
Roger Dow, U.S. Travel's president and CEO, said that simply reducing delays could add $17 billion in travel spending to the economy. That spending could support more than 155,000 jobs in the travel industry, primarily in lodging, food services, amusement, recreation, and retail, he said.
"In order for our economy to fully recover, we need to get business travelers moving efficiently from city to city, and not waiting for hours on end in airport lobbies or on tarmacs," Dow said. "We need to make it easier for small businesses to expand and reach other markets around the country. And we need to build an air travel system for the 21st century. The FAA Reauthorization bill is an essential step in accomplishing these goals."
The FAA Reauthorization bill could reduce delays and airport congestion by accelerating airport modernization efforts through implementing the NextGen air traffic control system, converting the nation's air traffic control from a ground-based system to one that uses GPS. The bill could also augment consumer protection for air travelers by requiring airlines to develop contingency plans for delays while passengers are on an aircraft. Plans would be required to include how the airlines will provide adequate food, water and access to restrooms. Airlines would need to provide passengers with timely and accurate information regarding the flight.
A 2008 U.S. Travel survey found that air travelers avoided 41 million trips from May 2007 to May 2008, or slightly more than 100,000 trips per day. That would translate into a $26.5 billion loss to the U.S. economy.
"The risk to our nation associated with deterioration of the air travel system isn't academic," Dow said, "It's real, tangible, and measureable.
"When Americans avoid travel, we lose more than just an airline ticket. Hotels lose customers. Local restaurants lose patrons. Salesmen lose clients. And businesses lose the opportunity to purchase valuable goods and services. By reducing the 'hassle factor' in flying, we can build an aviation system that truly facilitates commerce, instead of discouraging it."